Trueblood suggests postponing reconstruction of Ewers Drive

By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

A Crestwood alderman is suggesting the city postpone the reconstruction of Ewers Drive because of the city’s tight financial situation.

Three ordinances approving expenditures for the city’s proposed fiscal 2005 budget were introduced at last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting, but no final action was taken.

A public hearing on the proposed fiscal 2005 budget will be conducted by the Board of Aldermen at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14, at City Hall, 1 Detjen Drive. A work session on the proposed budget also will be conducted by aldermen at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, at City Hall.

Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood suggested at the Nov. 23 meeting that the planned reconstruction of Ewers Drive, Ewers Court and Lawndale Drive be postponed, using the $401,080 estimated cost of the project to accelerate the capital improvement fund’s repayment of $901,000 to the general fund. Aldermen voted in April to adopt an ordinance calling for the repayment of $901,000 to the general fund from the capital improvements fund over a 10-year period. The ordinance was adopted to repay general fund overhead costs associated with the city’s street reconstruction program that were not captured at the time, causing a significant decline in general fund cash reserves.

For fiscal 2005, general fund revenues are projected at $9,238,747, while total expenditures are estimated at $8,756,139. Internal service fund transfers from the capital improvements fund and the park and stormwater fund totaling $295,847 would result in projected net general fund expenditures of $8,460,292.

The proposed budget also projects transferring $250,000 from the general fund to a non-expendable trust fund to help bolster the city’s reserves. The non-expendable trust fund ultimately will serve as the city’s cash-flow account.

Aldermen voted earlier this year to adopt an ordinance changing the city’s fiscal year to a calendar year, effective in 2005. The city’s previous fiscal year ran from July 1 to June 30. The change in the fiscal year is designed to allow the city to better control its expense position.

For fiscal 2005, park and stormwater fund revenues are projected at $1,928,519, while total expenditures are projected at $2,827,790 — a deficit of $899,271. Based on a projected beginning fund balance of $1,131,443, an ending fund balance of $232,172 is estimated on Dec. 31, 2005.

For fiscal 2005, capital improvement fund revenues are projected at $1,741,798, while total expenditures are estimated at $1,792,487 — a deficit of $50,689. Based on a projected beginning fund balance of $241,049, an ending fund balance of $190,370 is estimated on Dec. 31, 2005.

Noting some reservations have been expressed about the proposed fiscal 2005 budget, Trueblood said, “I’ve been concerned that there’s been an enormous amount of discussion about this general fund not being balanced and I noticed that the last meeting we had an issue before us in which we discussed the implementation of new software, which would make the accounting department much more efficient and I think in the long run save us money. And that was — for no reason at the time given — voted against. Later it was expressed there was fear of the capital improvements fund going into a deficit.”

As a result, Trueblood suggested taking $401,000 from the capital improvements fund and accelerate that fund’s repayment to the general fund, and postpone for another year the repair of Ewers Drive “since we don’t have the money and I would make that as a motion before we go any further with this budget.”

Trueblood’s motion was seconded by Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe.

Ward 1 Alderman Richard LaBore asked Trueblood for an explanation of his motion.

“… My contention is it’s been brought to our attention that we are spending money unwisely in other places and I feel that this might qualify as one of those places where we’re spending money unwisely as long as we still have moneys owed to the general fund from the capital im-provements fund,” Trueblood said, noting his motion was to take that $401,000 from the capital improvements fund and use it to repay the debt owed the general fund.

LaBore asked, “… That’s in addition to the $90,000 al-ready planned?”

Trueblood replied, “Correct.”

Noting that the Ward 3 Aldermen Don Maddox and Jerry Miguel — whose ward in which Ewers Drive is situated — were absent, Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding later said, “As a resident, if I were to live on Ewers, I would say: Why are you trying to balance your budget on my back? And I don’t have an answer for them because I’m not the Ward 3 representative, but it seems to me like most of the sky is falling remarks we get come from our fellow representatives who are from Ward 3, who aren’t here tonight. So I’m wondering how that plays out. You know, they’re not here and we’re talking about this that they’ll take a huge hit on. Can someone explain to me the legalities of it all …”

Mayor Tom Fagan said, “… The legalities of it are that the board’s going to decide what the appropriation for the budget ought to be. In terms of whether this ultimately gets voted on, as the packet indicates, we are only going to be reading for the first time and the first time only the ordinances tonight. The final adoption of the 2005 budget can only be made following the public hearing, which has been scheduled for Dec. 14, 2004 …”

The mayor said he anticipated more discussion about Trueblood’s proposal and expected Maddox and Miguel to be fully aware of it before the next meeting.

“I think one of your other points, Alderman Breeding, was is it fair maybe to try to balance our budget or straighten out our budget on the backs of one street. I guess I’ll take a stab at that. Not necessarily. However, what I will say to you is you have to put it in context and the people on Ewers may not like to hear this, but when you’re talking about one street and using more than 50 percent of the (capital projects) budget, I think that’s something that obviously is going to draw a lot of looks just because of the cost involved,” Fagan said.

LaBore noted that in Ward 1, work on Fieldcrest, Fourn-ier and Hutchins was delayed three times because of the lack of funding for the project.

“I know how much it hurts to have that delayed. I know how much the people on Ewers are going to feel hurt, feeling they had a promise that it would be done in ’05. It will hurt deeply to put that off for a year and they won’t be the first ones to be hurt that way …,” LaBore said, noting he had “mixed feelings” about delaying the work and would reserve judgment on the matter until Dec. 14.